A Birmingham food business has been banned from offering allergen-free meals in one of England’s first examples of a hygiene emergency prohibition notice (HEPN) being used for this purpose.
Birmingham City Council issued the HEPN following a visit to the African Village in Birchfield Road, Perry Barr, prompted by complaints from a customer who suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction and was hospitalised.
The customer had informed the restaurant that he was allergic to foods containing peanuts or fish and they had reassured him they could provide an allergen-free meal.
However, when EH officers visited the food premises they found areas where food could be cross-contaminated, and also discovered a lack of knowledge about allergens.
Nick Lowe, operations manager for food safety, said: “About 10 minutes after eating the food the customer started vomiting, had a swelling throat, nose, tongue – and was struggling to breathe – and was admitted to A&E by ambulance.”
Following the visit to the premises, officers decided that there was an imminent risk of injury to health for allergy sufferers if they visited the restaurant and asked for an allergen-free meal.
Lowe added: “The notice was served on them preventing them from offering allergy-free food to customers who presented with a food allergy.
“In terms of allergens there was a lack of understanding as to what was a food allergen. How can you deliver an allergen-free meal if you don’t know what constitutes an allergen?”
The restaurant is still open and trading but cannot offer allergen-free meals until it can prove to EH officers that it can do so safely.
The Food Standards Agency said in a statement: “We do not have the details of this specific case and therefore cannot comment on the individual circumstances.
“However, it’s a key priority of the FSA to deliver a programme of work which makes the UK a safe place for those living with a food allergy or intolerance.
“The use of sanctions in relation to allergens will be considered as part of a wider review we are taking forward, following a recent FSA Board discussion on the issue.”